Even though opportunities don’t present themselves with every project, the grand entrance becomes the focus when the designer has a client who possesses the means and the property. However diminutive, every project has the opportunity for experimentation and an inclination to design towards a “Grand Entrance” is never wasted. Owners recognize the efforts in design portfolios when the merits are pointed out.
The Taj Mahal undoubtedly sets the bar as the grand entrance of all grand entrances. The Avenue of Kings in Karnak, Egypt is impressive, but it’s just big and lacks the detail and escalating drama of the Taj. Minus monarchs with unlimited budgets, grand entrances, having the opportunity to rival these, are rare today. However, entrances do set the tone, and landscaping provides the critical support needed to complete the design intention.
Urbanity Isn’t Always Refinement
Every time a monumental plaza appears in front of a building, the mind protests against it. It seems ludicrous to be replacing healthy green areas with a gratuitous expanse of pavement. Bad enough that cities are gobbling up the green landscape and replacing it with high-albedo space, creating heat islands that add to a city’s sweat factor—appear to have been done without thought to the consequences. Is there a challenge in place to recoup these spaces with landscaping projects?
Lessons From the Masters
Historic references are important in the sense that they continue to inspire. When reinterpreted for contemporary application, efforts continue the effort to maintain high-quality design. An aerial view of the Taj Mahal reveals its monumental scale. However, it also reveals something else: a reverence for green space.
With the understanding that today’s urban design does not often provide the same scale opportunity, a relative evaluation of proportion can compensate. Take full advantage of the site by considering the available space in three dimensions. Including the building’s participation will increase the building’s distinction and integrate both designs. It’s obvious that Versailles’ designer responded to exterior influences—indicating another successful strategy when an opportunity exists to dramatize the entrance as Destination.
Incorporating Sustainable Design
Presupposing a landscape that creates maximum impact with a minimum of means, where experience unfolds to the fullest with minimum expense, involves the creative use of materials, scale and position. Installing inert objects will conserve plant materials; the design palette can be expanded with visits to museums (for inspiration), estate auctions to collect an inventory of objects, university student art exhibitions and forays into aboriginal and geological areas for ideas.
Grand entrance design need not be an expensive pursuit for the creative designer whose inventory is composed of one-of-a-kind, unique articles that inspire or furnish the design. The building itself can become the inspiration for a sculpture. Remnants of unusual construction materials can be reassembled into an original configuration to hold trailing vines, or provide the armature for a light sculpture. Endless possibilities.
Grand buildings deserve a grand entrance. When the need exists in an urban environment, smart, sustainable design can respond with a robust solution without sacrificing the design quality.
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